English spelling – the craziest system in the world!

by Sara

For many students that study English as a second language, the majority will agree that learning to pronounce and spell in English can be a nightmare! Although English verbs are simple in comparison to most languages; with the subjugation changing only in the 3rd person ("he sees, she sees") and with the past tense needing only an "-ed" at the end of most words - when it comes to spelling and pronunciation there are no set rules.

Try and explain to a student studying the English language why "cough and "through" sound so different or why byte, bite and bight are all pronounced the same? To make matters worse we have a large list of heteronyms (type of homograph where words are spelt the same but have a different pronunciation and meaning)

Take a look at the few confusing examples below:

Alternate - (ALT-er-nit) another choice; (ALT-er-NAIT) switch back and forth.

Bass - (BASE) a stringed instrument; (BASS) a fish

Console -(CON-sole) upright case; also, computer terminal; (con-SOLE) to comfort.

Invalid - (IN-val-id) someone who is sick or disabled; (in-VAL-id) not valid

Unfortunately, the best way to learn hard to spell words is the old-fashioned method of rote memorization. Mnemonic training techniques are used by many private tutors to help students of all ages master the difficulties of the English Language. Kinaesthetic learning is another method which can be helpful, specially for students with dyslexia or learning difficulties. Associating a mental concept with a series of movements can help hard wire the series of letters into the brain much more quickly than repetition alone - but for the average learner one of the best methods to learn how to spell is to READ, READ, READ!

The Oxford English Dictionary states that the longest English word is: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (lung disease from breathing in volcanic dust) we welcome your comments on how to pronounce this word! :)